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A semicolon is forever

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April August 23, 2008 09:25 AM

Since my Word column and blog post on the decline of the semicolon, defenders of the threatened mark have risen to support it against the calumnies -- "girly," "ugly," "pusillanimous," and the like -- that I quoted.

But Rachel Manwill has endorsed the semicolon with more than words: She has the mark tattooed on the back of her neck.

Manwill, an editor for PR Newswire in Washington, D.C., won over her mother with a "poetic" rationale for the tattoo:

I find the semicolon to be an appropriate metaphor or reminder for how I'd like to live my life. The placement of the tattoo is especially important. I forever struggle in making decisions; either I overanalyze and overthink even after the choice has been made, or I shoot from the gut or rely on emotion. The semicolon tattoo exists (on my neck) to remind me that my head and my body (gut/heart/emotions) are separate entities, but should also be used together as a fluid, cooperative unit.

As an editor, she naturally looked at a lot of typefaces before settling on 80-point Times New Roman. "I'm not particularly fond of TNR as a font to type with, but there's something very classic and appropriately elegant about using it" as a tattoo, she says.

And the (potentially) discreet location has worked out well. "My mom is very happy that it is easy to hide, but my editorial director likes to show it off to her colleagues and clients."

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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column The Word since 1997. E-mail her at

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